Budget cuts nix $90m in federal college aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — Schools near military bases and tribal lands will face a $60 million shortfall between now and September and aid to college students will be cut by almost $90 million, according to the Education Department’s plan to carry out the automatic spending cuts mandated by Congress.

In all, the Education Department lost $2.6 billion as part of failed budget negotiations that forced deep spending cuts to reduce the nation’s debt. Every corner of the federal government has been slashing services to comply.

“Budgets are never just numbers. They reveal our values. They reveal our value choices,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters on Monday at an event to discuss pre-K programs. “You do not see our high-performing competitors defunding education and innovation via sequestration. Other nations, our international competitors, they keep their eye on the prize and they don’t let dysfunctional politics create a man-made mess.”

Taken as a whole, the cuts could force fast changes at the end of the school year.

For instance, areas where large portions of land are owned or managed by the government, such as military or tribal areas, receive more than $1 billion in federal aid annually to make up for the lack of land subject to property tax. Under the automatic budget cuts, that sum is being slashed about 5 percent.

Students who work in college libraries, dining halls or elsewhere on campus will see a collective $51 million in work study aid cut. Separately, grants for needy students will be cut $38 million. Some $1.6 billion in college aid will remain, however.

Most of the Education Department’s cuts will translate to fewer dollars to pay salaries at the state and local levels. For instance, the department’s plan cuts $20 million from a program designed to help students who move between states or countries during the school year catch up. Often, those students are children of migrant farmers who require additional help to get on the same page as their classmates.

Separately, programs to help students learn English were slashed by $38 million.

As implemented, the spending plan also will cut $28 million from the administration’s “Race to the Top” competition that rewards states for implementing changes in how schools teach and students learn. Some $520 million, however, remains in that pot for states to try new approaches to boost student performance.

An additional $13 million for charter schools and $5 million for magnet schools were expected to be cut, according to the budget outline.

And the budget cuts would reduce student counseling services, school safety and community development efforts by $13 million.

Across all agencies and departments, the reductions total $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The first-year cuts are $85 billion but many programs are exempt from the cuts such as Social Security and Pell grants.